Archives for August 2016

League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Publishes Online Voters’ Guide for Sept. 8 Primary Election

August 18, 2016 / Boston, MA – To assist Massachusetts voters as they go to the polls on Thursday, September 8 for state primary elections, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has published an online Voters’ Guide, www.VOTE411.org, that features biographical information about all candidates in contested state primary races, as well as responses by those candidates to questions posed by the League.

The VOTE411.org online guide will allow voters to access personalized ballot information simply by entering a street address.  Voters will also be able to find in-depth information about candidates, voter registration, voting requirements and rules, and poll locations. LWVMA is bringing this digital platform to Massachusetts voters across the state for the first time for the September 8 primary; only those candidates who face a challenger in the primary election on September 8 have been asked to respond to this primary guide.

Later this fall, the information on www.VOTE411.org will be updated for the November 8 general election and all candidates will respond to a new set of questions.  The general election guide will contain complete information about candidates for the presidential, congressional, state legislature, sheriff, Governor’s Council, register of deeds, and county commissioner races, as well as about the statewide ballot questions.

“We hope Massachusetts voters will use this Voters’ Guide to help make informed choices as they vote on September 8,” said Jean Cherdack, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.  “We are pleased to be able to provide this information and thank the candidates for their willingness to participate in the guide.”

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Since its founding in 1920, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has been a respected and trusted voice for citizen participation in our democracy.  With 44 local Leagues throughout the state, LVWMA has been at the forefront of efforts to empower and educate Massachusetts voters and effect change on a wide range of issues. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. For more information, please go www.lwvma.org.

Support for this program was provided by Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation and an anonymous donor.

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League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Publishes Online Voters’ Guide

August 18, 2016 / Boston, MA – To assist Massachusetts voters as they go to the polls on Thursday, September 8 for state primary elections, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) has published an online Voters’ Guide, www.VOTE411.org, that features biographical information about all candidates in contested state primary races, as well as responses by those candidates to questions posed by the League.

The VOTE411.org online guide will allow voters to access personalized ballot information simply by entering a street address.  Voters will also be able to find in-depth information about candidates, voter registration, voting requirements and rules, and poll locations. LWVMA is bringing this digital platform to Massachusetts voters across the state for the first time for the September 8 primary; only those candidates who face a challenger in the primary election on September 8 have been asked to respond to this primary guide.

Later this fall, the information on www.VOTE411.org will be updated for the November 8 general election and all candidates will respond to a new set of questions.  The general election guide will contain complete information about candidates for the presidential, congressional, state legislature, sheriff, Governor’s Council, register of deeds, and county commissioner races, as well as about the statewide ballot questions.

“We hope Massachusetts voters will use this Voters’ Guide to help make informed choices as they vote on September 8,” said Jean Cherdack, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.  “We are pleased to be able to provide this information and thank the candidates for their willingness to participate in the guide.”

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Since its founding in 1920, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has been a respected and trusted voice for citizen participation in our democracy.  With 44 local Leagues throughout the state, LVWMA has been at the forefront of efforts to empower and educate Massachusetts voters and effect change on a wide range of issues. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. For more information, please go www.lwvma.org.

Support for this program was provided by Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation and an anonymous donor.

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Election Modernization Coalition Releases Status Update on Implementation of Early Voting in Massachusetts

election modernization pictures

BOSTON – August 4, 2016 – With Massachusetts’ first experience with early voting beginning in just over two months, the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition today said that nearly 40% of the state’s municipalities are in the final planning stages for early voting, 35% have started planning, and 13% had no plans as of July 20th. The information came from a phone survey of all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns conducted by Common Cause, MASSPIRG, and the League of Women Voters in June and July. 12% of Massachusetts communities could not reached.

“If communities have enough hours and locations, early voting promises to shorten long lines at busy polling places, improve the voting experience, and give Massachusetts citizens more opportunities to participate in democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts during a Coalition press conference at Boston City Hall. “Today, we are very pleased to report to that many cities and towns in Massachusetts are well on their way to a successful implementation of early voting.”

“For 96 years, the League of Women Voters has worked to ensure that voting and elections are free, fair and accessible, and early voting in Massachusetts is one more important step toward improving access to the voting booth for all voters,” said Meryl Kessler, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “We are heartened by the progress many municipalities have made toward robust implementation of the new law, and we hope other municipalities will follow suit.”

The Coalition campaigned for passage of the 2014 Election Modernization Law that established early voting and other reforms. Last fall, it launched the Early Voting Challenge to encourage municipalities to go beyond the floor set by the law (one location operating during business hours) and meet the Coalition’s recommended standards, based on best practices from other states, to ensure robust early voting opportunities for Massachusetts voters. These standards include providing at least one early voting site for every 35,000 people in a given community and providing evening and weekend hours for voting.

The Coalition plans to award Gold and Silver medals to cities and towns that meet those standards later this fall. The Gold Medal will go to communities that offer an adequate number of sites, at least two evenings of weeknight voting per week, and six or more hours of weekend voting. The Silver will go to communities that offer an adequate number of sites, at least one weeknight of evening voting per week, and four or more hours of weekend voting.

This phone survey obtained information from 313 of the 351 cities and towns in the state and found that 138 municipalities had already made final or nearly final plans, 126 had tentative plans, and 49 had not yet started planning for early voting.

Currently, nine municipalities appear to be progressing towards a Gold Medal, and 40 towards the Silver Medal. 175 communities plan to offer extended evening hours, and 83 will offer weekend hours.

Coalition members stressed that the data is preliminary and very much in flux.

Election officials from the City of Boston joined the groups to tout their comprehensive early voting plan that includes nine sites, as well as evening and weekend voting.

“In Boston we are proud to support early voting and have worked hard on a comprehensive plan that will make voting more accessible to all residents,” said Dion Irish, Commissioner and Chairman of the Boston Election Commission. “Feedback from the community was an important part of determining the final plan for early voting in Boston, and we were encouraged by the positive responses from people who are thrilled to have the opportunity to vote at a time that is convenient for them. As we look forward to November, it is our hope that early voting will expand access to ballot for residents of Boston.”

The Coalition was also joined by Salem City Councilor, and Chair of the Salem Early Voting Task Force, David Eppley, who spoke about the robust early voting plans in his city.

“Salem has been proactive as a community in bringing together various stakeholders and public officials with our Early Voting Task Force,” said Councilor Eppley. “We are aiming to have an early voting poll site for weekend hours in a largely Latino neighborhood as well as extended hours on separate days at our centrally located high school. This is in addition to a dedicated special site within city hall for the entire early voting period. We are already discussing how we might expand in future elections. Early Voting is a big win for our citizens, for our voter turnout, and for democracy.”

Despite widespread progress towards expanded early voting, the Coalition noted that some communities are lagging behind and need to do better.

“Although lots of communities are doing a great job on early voting, many others don’t yet have concrete plans to provide sufficient access for their residents,” said Gavi Wolfe of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “There’s a particular need for Gateway Cities to step up. In mid-size municipalities with more than 35,000 people and lots of them working extra jobs to make ends meet, it’s essential to offer multiple early voting sites and weekend hours. These details really matter if we want to make sure people can actually exercise their right to vote.”

The Coalition plans to continue to monitor progress in each city and town and will award final Gold and Silver Medals at a ceremony later in the fall.

The groups noted that a successful implementation of early voting will have a particular impact on those with multiple jobs and minimal resources.

“Early voting is particularly crucial for communities of color and low-income communities” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “This initiative provides flexibility and additional options for voters who cannot afford to take time off of work or who work more than one job, as well as single parents without childcare.”

“Studies show that if you cast your first vote at age 18, voting becomes a habit for life,” added Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG. “Expanding the time frame in which young people can cast their first vote will, we hope, create more good-habit voters for life.”

“Momentum is building across Massachusetts for early voting,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of MassVOTE. “Although we still have work to do, local officials have been working hard preparing to implement the new law, and many are meeting our recommendations to expand voter participation and voting rights in Massachusetts. We hope every community will help early voting realize its full potential.”

For more, please go to www.earlyvotingma.com.

Detailed information on the survey available upon request.

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The Election Modernization Coalition is made up of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, MassVOTE, and more.

 

LWVMA Positions on Ballot Questions

There will be four questions on the statewide ballot Nov. 8. LWVMA is taking a stand on only one of them, opposing the additional slot parlor.  The League does not have positions on the issues in the other three ballot questions, on charter school expansion, farm animal containment practices and legalization of marijuana.

Our decisions on these questions are based on policy positions taken after study of issues at the state and national levels and consensus by League members.

Here are the questions, in the order they will appear on the ballot, and the League’s stand on each.

 Question 1: Expanded Gaming Initiative: 

This proposed law would allow the state Gaming Commission to issue one additional category 2 license, which would permit operation of a gaming establishment with no table games and not more than 1,250 slot machines.  The League has a position in opposition to legalized casino gambling and urges a NO vote on this question.

 Question 2: Increase Access to Public Charter Schools

This proposed law would allow the state to approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools each year.  Approvals under this law could expand statewide charter school enrollment by up to 1% of the total statewide public school enrollment each year.  New charters and enrollment expansions would be exempt from existing limits on the number of charter schools, the number of students enrolled in them, and the amount of local school districts’ spending allocated to them. The League does not have a position on charter schools and therefore does not take a stand on this question.

 Question 3: Farm Animal Containment

This proposed law would prohibit any farm from confining any breeding pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely.  The proposed law would prohibit the sale in Massachusetts of whole eggs or uncooked veal or pork if the hen, pig, or calf was confined in a manner prohibited by the proposed law.  The LWVUS agriculture position does not apply to this question. LWVMA does not take a stand on this question.

 Question 4: Marijuana Legalization

 The proposed law would permit the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons age 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities.  It would provide for the regulation of commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products and for the taxation of proceeds from sales of these items. The League does not have a position on legalization of marijuana and therefore does not take a stand on this question.

 8/4/2016

LWVMA Scores Victories in Just-Ended Legislative Session

August 2, 2016 – Several bills LWVMA strongly supported passed in the 189th session of the Massachusetts legislature, which ended at midnight Sunday, July 31.

A bill improving access to public records, a strong pay equity bill and an energy diversity bill that increases the state’s reliance on renewable energy sources all passed with active League support.

The legislature in this session made major strides in considering bills to reform the criminal justice system.  While only the bill to repeal automatic drivers’ license suspensions for certain drug-related offences passed, the work done on criminal justice reform is expected to carry over into the new session which begins in January.

In the next session, the League will again work for election reform bills, including ones to implement automatic voter registration and election day registration and to redraw Boston precinct lines.

We were disappointed that bills providing for better working conditions for pregnant workers, for a ban on toxic flame retardants, for accurate and appropriate sex education in schools, for a carbon pricing policy, for in-state tuition rates for certain non-citizen students, and many others that the League supported did not make it to floor for a final vote this session.  We will be advocating for those and other issues again in the 190th session of the General Court.